Well, this is awful

A North Carolina teenager suffers from schizophrenia. His family calls the cops for help during an episode.  The first officers on the scene taser and restrain the boy, Keith Vidal, 18 years old. Another car rolls up, and, according to the boy’s parents, Mark Wilsey and Mary Vidal, the new officer on the scene decides to handle the situation his way:

“We don’t have time for this,” Wilsey recalled one of the officers saying before he fired in between the two officers who were holding the teen down.


You can guess what comes next:

The Boiling Spring Laes Police Chief has cleared his officers of any wrong doing at the scene. Chief Brad Shirley says an internal review shows his officers did not break any laws.

That may not be the last word. The local prosecutor is investigating:

DA Jon David offered few new details other than that the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) had been called in to investigate. He said that it would take time to determine if a crime had been committed…

…but the parents have their doubts:

the family said that they were not invited to attend….Outside the press conference, the family held signs, demanding justice for Keith Vidal.

It is early days, of course, and the lawyer for the cop suspended after the incident says his client will be seen to be innocent, which is the presumption until a jury says otherwise.  All the usual disclaimers apply.

But on the facts established so far (like this one: “The first unit on scene reported a confrontation in the hallway, but told Brunswick County Dispatchers several times that everything was OK.”), this looks very bad indeed.

And even if there are mitigating circumstances that come to light, still, this is what happens when guns are the first tool you reach for instead of the last.

That’s the deep problem with American gun (nut) culture.  There are just too many guns out there, available to anyone “responsible” or not.  The reality, of course, is that there are lots of situations where guns are inappropriate and lots of people for whom guns are just a really bad idea.

Some of those people are cops.

The last full measure of the misery of this story?  Shortly before Wilsey and Vidal had to witness their kid gunned down in front of them, they lost their daughter to a car wreck.  I can’t imagine…

I hugged my son extra hard when I got home last night, I can tell you.

Image:  Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Triumph of Death, c. 1562.


102 replies
  1. 1
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    He didn’t have time for it. Indeed that may be the coldest, most anti-social thing I’ve read this week. I saw it yesterday and had local NAMI work on my desk, so I filed it as a “respond later” in my emotional queue.

    That officer is a walking talking example of why police need better screening of their candidates. Someone with his attitude should never be issued a stapler or a pair of scissors, much less a badge and a firearm.

  2. 2
    Fuzzy says:

    Small town cops have always been the worst of the lot. They take a local macho guy and send him to some “academy” for 6 weeks and give him a badge (license) to continue being the ignorant bully everyone knows he has been. It’s been that sad for generations.

  3. 3
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Mental illness is a terrible thing. Hopefully, this officer will be committed to an institution where he can get mental help.

  4. 4
    Cervantes says:

    Cowards do not make good police officers.

  5. 5
    scav says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): A few civilian deaths must be the price we pay for cheap and quick protection from the real bad guys, who must be frisked anytime they leave the house. No wonder the thin blue line blasted and moved on: quotas to fill, quotas to meet. Or, it could very well have been his one-man Rambo fantasy that had immediate needs: that sort of one-liner and resolute action plays very well in all the movies.

  6. 6
    PurpleGirl says:

    Can’t police departments develop a better way to handle a person in a psychiatric crisis? Maybe an EMT with psych training could respond to these types of calls with the police officer? It seems that this type of event happens all over the country and the responding police officers almost never have the training to handle the situation and end of killing the person in crisis.

  7. 7
    Cermet says:

    As a person that considers most cops low life’s, this type of shooting is an extremely rare occurrence and hardly proves any significant number of cops are gun happy crazies just waiting to kill; yes, cold blooded murder by this cop (assuming these are all the facts) but hardly why guns are the issue for cops; the insane drug war on us is the main cause of over reaction by cops and (like this case) the rare cold blooded murder by a cop.

  8. 8
    Mike in NC says:


    Small town cops have always been the worst of the lot.

    I knew a guy in the Navy — really a terrible, incompetent junior officer with a drinking problem — who left the service and ended up for a time as a cop in a small town in the Tidewater VA area. We all thought it a bad idea to give him a gun and a badge, and he didn’t last too long in that job.

    There are small towns in this county where the cops are pretty much armed thugs. I think last year half the police department of Leland (next to Boiling Springs Lake) was fired for corruption and unethical behavior. Sort of like watching “Justified”.

  9. 9
    aimai says:

    I really think about this very systemically. Even psychopaths, like this police officer, can be restrained and retrained–but the incentives have to be there and they have to start with morning meeting and end of shift meeting–if such a thing even happens. Whatever leadership there is needs to demand, not merely accountability for bad and violent decisions taken in the heat of the moment but accountability every day for officers who choose nonviolent solutions to (even) bad and dangerous solutions. Rewards, praise, commendations and pay raises should be given out to officers who solve difficult social situations without resorting to firing a gun. Every injury and death of any civilian during a police engagement needs to be seen as an enormous black eye for the entire local police force. Every thoughtful, generous, time taking, graceful, resolution to any situation that does not result in violence needs to be praised and elevated into best practices.

    You can’t fix this simply by getting one nut off the force (though that, of course, needs to be done). You have to change the definition of the “good police officer” from one who “solves” every situation with a gunshot to one who never resorts to violence.

  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    Beyond the personality or issue with this one officer, LEO Depts across the country have moved from investing in their people to investing in equipment/toys.
    Instead of training the individual to work through difficulties they will encounter, they just hand them a taser. And of course that’s like the safety valve when they get stressed.
    What happened in this case just defies understanding, so I am interested to hear more when possible.

  11. 11
    Gex says:

    Honestly, if you have a mentally ill person at your house and need help, it might be better to call the FD and EMTs than the cops. “Protect and serve” has been replaced by “Taze and shoot” as our police forces’ motto.

    Or skip it altogether. It’s better odds to deal with someone who may hurt themselves than to deal with someone who WILL hurt that person. And even if the mentally ill person stabs themselves with a screwdriver, you most likely can get them to an ER and deal with that.

  12. 12
    MobiusKlein says:

    Can rawstory drop the ‘allegedly’ from the headline “Impatient NC cops allegedly shoot mentally ill teen:”
    It is factual that the cops shot the kid, not some unproven allegation.

  13. 13
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @PurpleGirl: There are multi day “crisis intervention team” trainings for LEOs and EMTs throughout the country, which include both and educational session on brain disorders and presentations by mental health professionals explaining how to de-escalate situations with those who have brain disorders. These include role playing exercises. In Ohio, such training is becoming the standard of care, if you will. The goal is to have at least one CIT officer/EMT on every shift.

    The sheriff of an unnamed county in the center of the state declined to send his staff to training. They responded to a situation involving a psychiatric crisis and 90 seconds later the individual in crisis was dead.

  14. 14
    Petorado says:

    It’s now the law of the land that any time a white person shoots a gun it’s because they are a victim, and therefore innocent of any crime. However, any time a person of color uses a gun it is with criminal intent, especially when used against a white person.

    I’m waiting for the day when white bank robber explains away their deed by saying that they were using their 2nd Amendment rights to make a withdrawal. But then of course, white people tend to use Goldman Sachs to rob banks instead of guns.

  15. 15
    scav says:

    @Cermet: What is more worrying, if not unexpected, is the Boiling Lakes Force seemingly on the scene deciding that there was no wrong doing, nope! nothing illegal, nothing that should even be looked at to prevent reoccurrence, it all went by the books, totally Kosher. That’s systemic, not one armed and badged apple.

  16. 16
    shelly says:

    Sweet Jesus, enough of these horror stories, it’s getting so that I;d hesitate calling the cops for anything. What the fuck is the matter with them?

  17. 17
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    Small town cops have always been the worst of the lot.

    Yep. This isn’t any way comparable, but an off-duty deputy near us shot a hiker’s dog in a state park last year because the dog ‘allegedly’ barked at him.

    Now, there are plenty of small town / rural officers who can handle crisis situations, but there’s always the risk of some borderline sociopath with a badge showing up.

    And I hate to say this, because ‘Honor The Troops’ and all that sacred guff, but now that local forces are recruiting veterans with several years of Iraq and Afghanistan under their belts, you’re going to end up with a small but significant number of law enforcement officers who treat their work like it’s a military occupation.

  18. 18
    Fuzzy says:

    @aimai: These type cops don’t have shift meetings. They meet in the coffee shop at 7AM and talk about who’s life they ruined last night. This “B” movie drama happens in 1000s of towns every day and now they have riot gear thanks the Congress and 9/11 “fear money” supplied by the military industrial complex buddies of the politicians.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    you’re going to end up with a small but significant number of law enforcement officers who treat their work like it’s a military occupation.

    And why wouldn’t they?

  20. 20
    Corner Stone says:

    MSNBC is talking about Christie’s office being tied into the traffic and lane closure issue.

  21. 21
    boatboy_srq says:

    [T]his is what happens when guns the police are the first tool you reach for people you call for help instead of the last.


    The days of the friendly neighborhood beat cop, who knows all his neighbors and pitches in to help, are long gone. What the US has developed in its place is a thinly-disguised hit squad, trained to take out anyone it perceives as a threat.

    I’m not saying police are bad people, or that they’re not doing the job they’re tasked to do. What I am saying is that policing in the US has morphed from preserving the peace in general to threat control in particular, and that thanks to that new focus the current generation of police officers is far more likely to shoot someone down than talk someone down. “Calling the cops” is no longer a way to settle disputes or control one’s spouse/children – unless the desired end result is the death of one or more of the parties involved.

    I have real sympathy for Vidal’s family – as much because the awareness of what 21st century US policing looks like is slow to register with the public and obviously hadn’t occurred to them prior to placing the call as because of their resulting loss.

    @Cermet: the insane drug war, the imposition of formerly ICE-specific duties to address illegal immigration, a substantial number of new officers being former military and/or active reserves, consistent training by PDs to treat every “civilian” as subhuman and a potential suspect (and therefore potential threat),… the causes are many, varied and far more than the single “drugs=bad” policymaking of recent decades. The WoD has been going on for decades – and this phenomenon of random shooting of persons in (some form of custody) is no longer the hallmark of a bad precinct (like Ramparts, for example) as the US saw as recently as the mid-90s but rather that of a PD trained in the current methods with the current personnel.

    @Purple Girl: this goes to 911/police dispatch procedures and the assistance the Vidals requested. Had the Vidals called for medical assistance, or had the dispatcher recognized that treatment (with something other than lead) was required, EMTs would have been on the scene instead of PD. It’s a subtle but crucial difference.

  22. 22
    Dave says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: That last statement is probably true but the sad thing is I’m pretty sure we had more fire discipline and stricter engagement rules in Afghanistan and Iraq than we see from too many LEO’s on a regular basis. This man committed murder full stop. Unless that kid was literally a second away from stabbing one of the other officers (and by the way I’m going to say I’m extremely skeptical of the need to use tasers here but I’ll stay on point) then he is guilty of murder. There is a very small universe of excuses that would cause me to say he doesn’t deserve a murder rap but none I can think of that will make his action acceptable or excusable.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Dave: You’re forgetting that the “fire discipline and… engagement rules” you mention apply to active military and/or honorably discharged veterans. The US didn’t develop a security contractor industry (Blackwater / Custer Battles) from that segment of the military, and the employees of that industry almost certainly don’t share the discipline and standards you describe.

  25. 25
    Corner Stone says:


    Had the Vidals called for medical assistance, or had the dispatcher recognized that treatment (with something other than lead) was required, EMTs would have been on the scene instead of PD. It’s a subtle but crucial difference.

    IMO, it’s doubtful an EMT would have attempted treatment or mitigation of a violent individual without some form of backup present.

  26. 26
    aimai says:

    @Gex: But I think that a lot of families are at the end of their rope dealing with (some kinds) of mental illness, especially in a larger teen or out of control adult. What they could handle when the child was small and the parents young and strong becomes just physically impossible and very scary when it is a young and physically strong adult vs. elderly or solo parents. And I’m not sure that every community thinks that “the emts” are going to respond or can afford an ambulance/hospital bill. We have a very complicated, failing, system in which a lot of borderline dangerous our out of control people are being cared for in their homes and their community but we don’t have enough support for them when they are in crisis. Families are going to end up calling the police (who have been militarized) rather than a local clinic/hospital because they just aren’t networked in reliably to a large and stable enough health care system for the mentally ill.

  27. 27
    The Red Pen -- PEN DAMMIT! says:

    I couldn’t believe this when I read it. I mean I could but I didn’t want to.

    Also, that Nothingburger Bridge Scandal is busting wide open.

  28. 28
    mike with a mic says:



    As a vet one of the first organizations that reached out to me when I got out of the service was the DC metro PD. Simply put hiring veterans looks good because of our protected status and they don’t have to “train us” in the same way they do civilians. Furthermore the government is handing over all the extra gear the military used to the cops now. In my case I took an IT contracting job instead, but for veterans who can’t transition to the corporate world because their service job doesn’t translate, or all of a sudden they need a degree to do their job the police are the best option.

    Our police forces are full of cops who learned how to do crowd control and interact with locals from Iraq and The Stan. They are armed with the same sort of equipment they had overseas. Add the drug war insanity and the very real gun violence in several areas and you have a powder keg.

    Also something that’s not talked about. The police department is little more than a way for the city to get paid. When revenues go down the cops can generate extra income by harassing people for very little reason. They throw the book at you and when you are done pleading out (take a lower class missdemeanor rather than the felony), paying a lawyer, and with court fees the county/city just got paid. I’m still buried in debt from court fees. There’s a financial incentive to turn every encounter with the cops into an arrest if possible.

    Your local police force has three real functions. Make the area safe and tolerable for the upper class and corporations, provide a private security force for the local executive branch, and to act as a revenue stream for the local government so they don’t have to raise taxes. It’s highly effective at all three.

  29. 29
    Neldob says:

    Police departments reflect the predominant culture, which is currently corruption is ok as long as you don’t get caught and make good money. Look at how long Baca in Los Angeles held onto his job. Some places have predominantly good cops because the educated, progressive community demands it. It is pretty essential … protect and serve. I feel so terribly for the family.

  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    “We don’t have time for this”? Are you fucking kidding me?

    So, now it’s ok for cops to kill because they’re inconvenienced, huh? Wow.

  31. 31
    mike with a mic says:


    Neither the EMTs or the fire department is going to respond to a mental person. For one it’s way too dangerous. If an EMT judges the problem to be that you have a crazy person, they won’t do shit till the cops arrive. They’ll let the cops restrain them or whatever as well. If you place a call that you have a crazy person you will always have the cops. Hell even if you have a heart attack you might get the cops because there are plenty of places they won’t send the EMT without the cops anyways.

    Lastly EMT doesn’t make money, a police arrest does. They’re going to get paid for their time.

  32. 32
    Kay says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    To do it right takes hours, because (obviously) the person who is in crisis doesn’t want to go. It’s difficult to coordinate all of our various roles, too, the limits of each person’s “authority” or perhaps “responsibility” is a better word. It gets comical, with each actor (police, guardian, judge, emergency psych responder, hospital intake people, and on and on) trying to palm the situation off on someone else, and that’s partly because it takes hours and hours.

    A lot of it is persuasion, negotiation, and (many) police officers just don’t approach the world like that. Some of them do, some of them are great at it, but a lot of them don’t. So my approach, which I had to learn thru trial and error, would be for the police to act on their very limited “initial response” role (because they get the first call) and then hand it off, but they have to have someone to hand it off TO.

  33. 33
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    I’m wondering why the young man’s parents seem to be the only residents of Boiling Springs who are upset about the murder. Does this mean that everyone else in town is comfortable with employing a cop just shoots people because he can?

  34. 34
    WaterGirl says:

    As I understood it, the previous culture for police officers was that if you had to go for your gun, you had already kind of failed because you were supposed to be able to control situations without resorting to your gun. Now it seems to be the go-to play. And now for my daily mantra. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

  35. 35
    PurpleGirl says:

    Thinking about the case a more, this is speculation on my part but is based on actions in taser-related cases.

    The first officer used a taser to restrain the teen. The other officers got there and one of them gave the teen orders to stand or get on the ground, whatever. Because of the previous taser hit, the teen couldn’t move and didn’t move. The officer then shot the teen for not obeying his orders. When do cops UNDERSTAND how a taser works and that someone who has been hit can not respond because his neural system is out of order and he can’t move yet?

  36. 36
    GregB says:

    NH has our own police brutality story running today. Three officers in Seabrook NH are suspended after a video clip from the station has surfaced showing one large officer smashing a bony young guys face and head into a cinder block wall and then his colleague maces him as they all stand back and have a smirk and chuckle-fest.


  37. 37
    mike with a mic says:


    The War On Drugs. There is so much money in drugs it’s worth killing over. Once the drug dealers were armed the cops had to get better guns. There’s been an arms race between the two sides.

  38. 38


    Basically, the Los Angeles style of “wartime policing” that treats all civilians as the enemy and the police as a beleaguered force trapped behind enemy lines has spread to the entire country. Fucking Darryl Gates, but also fucking William H. Parker, who pioneered that style of policing.

  39. 39
    negative 1 says:

    @boatboy_srq: I think that this is a very underrated issue with the law enforcement culture today. Many cops today are trained to believe that every situation involves hostile violent criminals until proven otherwise. I don’t know very many people that believe they are treated with any respect by the police in any dealings with them. The idea of community partners, cops who walk a beat and say hi to the neighbors were a good model. The simple fact is that communities are unable/unwilling to spend enough on the manpower that model would entail.

  40. 40


    Add in the fact that an out-of-control schizophrenic is not going to respond normally to commands and directions, and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster.

  41. 41

    I don’t know if this link is going to post correctly, but if you read between the lines of this letter by one of the official historians of the LAPD, there’s an interesting thing that most police apologists don’t admit: the “military-style” model means you can cut back on the number of officers you have to pay:


  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    Holy shit. Both Rubio and Cantor are going to give speeches on poverty today.
    Two of the three most punchablefaces in politics in the limelight. I may pre-stroke out to save myself some time.

  43. 43
    wenchacha says:

    Last night, PBS had a show about poisoning and the birth of the forensic lab in crime detection. They covered some pretty ruthless murders. In one case, it took 4 officers to wrestle the suspect into a straitjacket.

    But they did it. They wrestled him into it, without shooting him or anyone else.

    Bring back the straitjacket?

  44. 44
    Bobby Thomson says:

    My daughter has been diagnosed with autism and occasionally has explosive tantrums and elopement issues. Stories like this scare the hell out of me.

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    you’re going to end up with a small but significant number of law enforcement officers who treat their work like it’s a military occupation.

    Well, we already have an “us vs. them” attitude by a lot of LEOs, and bringing in ex-military who have hairtrigger reflexes left over from the “survival phase” of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will not help one bit.

    The militarization of law enforcement in this country is a serious problem, and cannot end well, as we see in this example. As someone else pointed out above, the substitution of weapons for training in dealing with the mission does not help one iota, but is driven by a “bottom line” mentality…the sort of thing Feldmarschall von Rumsfailed actually boasted of in the Iraq war…addressing the mission on the cheap.

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Corner Stone:

    OK, my give up. Who is the other most punchable face? Rand Paul? Ted Cruz? Mitch McConnell?

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Teddy Cruz by a freakin’ country mile.
    Mitch McConnell and Republican to be Named Later round out the Top 5 most punchablefaces in politics.

  48. 48
  49. 49
    flukebucket says:

    I am sure it has probably already been said but the kid was white so this could get ugly for the PD. If the kid had been darker it would have been a two week paid vacation and fuck it he deserved it. Boiling Springs. Ain’t no rednecks there….nosireeebob!

  50. 50
    Corner Stone says:

    I’m wondering if “Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee” will enter the national lexicon.

  51. 51
    Lex says:

    It’s even worse than it sounds. According to the Wilmington, N.C., paper, the first two officers to arrive were a Boiling Springs Lake police officer and a Brunswick County sheriff’s deputy, both of whom were familiar with the subject, knew that he could be talked down, and were in the process of doing so successfully. Then the Southport cop showed up, apparently shouting, which, not surprisingly, got the subject riled up again. That prompted the Southport cop to order the other two cops to tase the victim (and why they listened to him instead of telling him to butt the hell out of a situation they already had in hand, I do not know), and shit went downhill fast from there.

    Even larger law enforcement agencies in this state frequently are not well trained in how to handle mentally ill subjects causing disturbances. (Here in Guilford County, the Greensboro PD is pretty good, the county sheriff’s department, not so much.)

    On top of that, who discharges a service weapon into a pile of bodies on the floor, two of whom are cops? Even if the Southport cop had a clean shot at the subject, he had no guarantee that the round wouldn’t hit one of the other two cops, either directly via a through-and-through wound to the subject or via richochet. You’ve got to be capable of checking your own colon for polyps to be that stupid.

  52. 52
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Kay: I saw an example of CIT trained LEOs at work just week before last. Long story short, a friend had a break and at the 1st arrival of LEOs he seemed coherent. Landlord (responding to call from NY sister) saw the lucidity w/ LEOs, but observed more psychosis after they left, but 911 declined to respond again.

    I get call from mutual friend in Cleveland, talk to Sgt in the district, learn that officers were correct to leave, but I told him they may get another call. Upon arriving, I observed contiued decompensated behavior from phone, and he declined to let me in. I got the landlord back (so as to save windows) and got the police back, including Sgt I talked to.

    An hour and 5 officers working on negotiations later, he was transported without incident to psych emergency. These were CIT trained. Perhaps it helped that I could advise he was unlikely to have weapons, as he never did in the 35 years I’d known him. But they did not escalate after he slammed the door in their faces 3 times.

  53. 53
    Cassidy says:

    Calling Fire and EMS isn’t going to work. For one, 911 is a central dispatch; you call the line, the operator dispatches the appropriate people. Secondly, anything described as an altercation, MH issue of any sort is going to get the SO/PD response, regardless of who it is. And lastly, and this has aggravated me a couple of times on calls, the officer of said Fire/EMS is going to ask dispatch if SO/PD is on scene and if told no, they will stage until SO/PD have the situation under control. This is normal SOP across the country.

  54. 54
    burnspbesq says:

    In an interesting counterpoint, the case of two of the three Fullerton cops accused of a variety of crimes in connection with the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man is expected to go to the jury later today.


  55. 55
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Corner Stone: Granted. But the EMT wouldn’t have been packing heat, and would be trained to help rather than harm. And any armed escort / backup the EMT would have had would be deferring to the EMT’s mandate to provide assistance rather than shooting the person s/he was called to help.

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): @negative 1: Precisely.

  56. 56
    Mike in NC says:

    The local county paper had a lead article on how DOD was donating a surplus MRAP (heavily armored vehicle used in Iraq) to the SWAT team of the county police. Why a SWAT team in the first place for a sleepy coastal area filled with summer tourists and winter golfers? Crime here consists of the occasional speeding ticket and even rarer DUI.

  57. 57
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone: I don’t really see the Rubio thing.

    I’d include Paul Ryan and Scott Walker.

  58. 58
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone: We can hope.

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Paul Walker is dead, so how about you show some respect!
    And Ryan Scott is a quite handsome semi-well known celebrity chef.

    Just can’t stand looking at Rubio doing the whole facial squint while he tells us we should let everyone die of starvation, etc.

  60. 60
    scav says:

    @Mike in NC: But, but, but, 90lb tasered boys held down by other officers can terrify grown cops into fear of their very life in under 70 seconds! More Tanks, More Complete Body Armor when gunning down treed kittens as time-management SOP!

  61. 61
    Corner Stone says:

    Fukcing lysdexia.

  62. 62
    Kay says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    Landlord (responding to call from NY sister) saw the lucidity w/ LEOs, but observed more psychosis after they left, but 911 declined to respond again.

    Right, because as you know police have to witness “danger to themselves or others” or their particular part in this doesn’t kick in.

    I have spent a lot of time standing outside the unit door of a person in crisis, trying to get them to open it. It’s hard to explain to people who are not involved directly. I always get helpful suggestions like “get a court order”. Okay. Got it. Irrational people, people in crisis, mentally ill people, they don’t follow court orders. The court order is for me, not them. At the end of it, someone still has to persuade them to be transported, persuade them to stay put and wait in the emergency room, persuade them to walk from Point A to Point B.

    I really think you nailed it with your first comment. The officer didn’t want to put the time in. He took the easier route.

  63. 63
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @burnspbesq: Police Departments need to put up one of those “safety days” poster in the break room.

    “____ Days Since Mentally Ill Person Killed”

  64. 64
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone: I really think Scott Walker would have to be at the top of any FacePunching list.

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:


    gunning down treed kittens

    Reminds me of that Dirty Harry parody the Simpson’s have named McGarnagle.
    “Well McGarnagle, Billy is dead! They slit his throat from ear to ear.” — “Hey I’m trying to eat lunch here! “

  66. 66
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    …How does someone have this happen to their child and they not begin killing cops? I’m sorry, I know I’m just getting swept up in the outrage here, but I can’t help but think that these parents are much better people than I.

  67. 67
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    And someone needs to provide that body armor, at a healthy profit, too!

  68. 68
    Botsplainer says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Mitch McConnell and Republican to be Named Later round out the Top 5 most punchablefaces in politics.

    I always wanted to run into Fred Barnes sometime, just for the privilege of beating the living shit out of him in public. Mitch McConnell doesn’t irritate me the same way (even though I called him a “Howdy Doody Looking Motherfucker” to his face once while he was simply a local official).

    Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has a face that should be put on a heavy bag.

  69. 69
    Tom Levenson says:

    @wenchacha: that program, btw, was based on the book The Poisoner’s Handbook by a good friend of mine, Deborah Blum. Check it out.

  70. 70
    Corner Stone says:

    @Botsplainer: Sorry, but you can’t put pundits in there. That would be a never ending thread of punchability rankings.

  71. 71
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Perhaps a wicker basket, first?

  72. 72
    scav says:

    The contrast of this to the case of the Indiana Guardsman pulled over with 48 explosive devices, two rifles, two pistols, a bullet-proof vest, remote control detonation device, while claiming to have no weapons in the vehicle, the vehicle with the “If you can read this, you’re in range” bumper sticker is stunning. one here and another plus easily as the expected aggregators.

  73. 73
    elmo says:


    On top of that, who discharges a service weapon into a pile of bodies on the floor, two of whom are cops?

    Johannes Mehserle.

  74. 74
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Sean Hannity. Face screaming to be rearranged with a Louisville Slugger.

  75. 75
    Daffodil's Mom says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    I’m also thinking that returning veterans may have undiagnosed or untreated PTSD. Still, I remember the 60’s and this epidemic of police brutality seems worse — though it could be that it’s not “just” directed at people of color, students and/or hippies like it was back then, but anyone white. There is a glorious equality to it, at least…

  76. 76
    Glocksman says:

    Our city cops in my experience over the years have been a mixed bag.

    Most of them just acted professional and wrote the ticket(s) and went about their business.

    The one who arrested me when I was in high school for stealing hubcaps (don’t laugh), was pretty laid back and nonconfrontational and explained just what would probably happen to me (PTD and dismissal of charges).

    When I was 19, there was the detective who didn’t like my speeding and was so pissed off that he legally couldn’t write me a ticket (state law says cops have to be either in a marked vehicle or in full uniform to write tickets), that he threw my wallet on the ground after I handed him my DL and then came back waving around a huge maglite while threatening to kick my ass.

    He probably would have done so, except for the minor fact that I pulled over into a hospital parking lot and it was sheer dumb luck that it was shift change, and his ranting and screaming had attracted an audience.

    My sole experience with the Indiana State Police was with the officer who pulled me over in 1987 for doing, as he put it, ‘115 and accelerating’ on US 41 by the Whirlpool plant (45 limit).
    He was civil and even took it easy on me by writing me up for my average speed of 79 in the 45 zone instead of hauling me off to jail for reckless driving.

    The above notwithstanding, I have no doubt at least some of those experiences wouldn’t have been nearly as civil had I been:
    (a) mouthy,
    (b) Black.
    (c) both.

    I sometimes wonder if the change in uniform from blues to pseudo-BDU’s has something to do with the change in mindset I read about among cops over the years.

  77. 77
    JasperL says:


    That’s what is so tragic. The first two on the scene handled it well – the family praised their efforts. So it’s no surprise they’ve been cleared of wrongdoing. It’s just one sociopath from Southport that turned the incident into murder by cop.

    Just a suggestion for Tom, but the Wilmington Star News has two articles that do a good job distinguishing between two cops who handled the situation correctly and the mad man who fired the gun.


  78. 78
    Gene108 says:


    EMT with psych training is more money than we, as a society, are willing to invest to help the mentally ill.

    There is still a large portion of society that views mental illness as moral failing, lack of will power, etc and not a medical condition.

  79. 79
    scav says:

    @JasperL: Boiling Springs Lakes does look better there, but there’s still an issue the head guy might have mentioned as the situation had clearly spiraled out of control. Sure, his officers apparently were fine, but cooperation and teamwork in law enforcement in general there clearly have issues. Despite reports of things being handled, why did Southport show up and feel “threatened” in same context and fire into muddle of people including other officers so quickly?

  80. 80
    Wyliecoat says:

    Just 6 months ago we had to call the cops when my teenager with Asperger’s was having a meltdown and threatening us. Before they arrived he ran away with a pair of scissors. The officers searched for him and found him in the local park. Later they told us that if he hadn’t dropped the scissors when they told him to, they would have shot him. When I heard the news about this kid I just broke down. The police are too darn trigger happy..why don’t they have tranqs or other non lethal methods?

  81. 81
    kc says:

    “We don’t have time for this,” Wilsey recalled one of the officers saying before he fired in between the two officers who were holding the teen down.

    Are you fucking KIDDING me with that. Jesus H. Christ!

  82. 82
    kc says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I guess we’ll see if they absorbed those empathy lessons.

  83. 83
    kc says:


    On top of that, who discharges a service weapon into a pile of bodies on the floor, two of whom are cops? Even if the Southport cop had a clean shot at the subject, he had no guarantee that the round wouldn’t hit one of the other two cops

    No shit, you’d think the other two cops would be pretty pissed off about that.

  84. 84
    Andrey says:

    @Wyliecoat: There’s no such thing as a nonlethal takedown method. Tranquilizers like you see in the movies simply don’t exist – anything that can knock you out that fast has a decent chance of killing you. Would you trust the trigger-happy cop to be a trained anesthesiologist? Tasers were designed to solve the same problem, and people still die to those. That’s why the professional term is “less lethal” rather than “nonlethal”.

  85. 85
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Bobby Thomson: My son’s autistic. I’m totally with you right there.

  86. 86
    Kay says:


    There is still a large portion of society that views mental illness as moral failing, lack of will power, etc and not a medical condition.

    Right, absolutely, but that’s a learning process for the families too. They have to have a plan, just as they would with a chronically or periodically physically ill person. Who do they call first, second, third, who is available to monitor what will be hours of waiting once the eval/safety process starts, who will actually persuade this person to accept transport and all the rest?

  87. 87
    J R in WV says:


    And any armed escort / backup the EMT would have had would be deferring to the EMT’s mandate to provide assistance

    In what fantasy land will armed cops defer to anyone else’s “mandate”?

    I’m sorry, but while there are many brave and sympathetic police officers, they are way outnumbered by the town bullies with a badge to make it legal.

    And an armed and dangerous bully with a badge won’t defer even to a senior police officer, once they get the bit between their teeth and have determined that THEY are going to take charge of this Situation!!

    That said, I am always polite, respectful and deferential to police officers. Now that my beard is white, I usually get a warning. My last speeding ticket was when you could get pulled over for 67 on the interstate! Long time ago!

    But of course, someone in a fugue state can’t be calm and deferential, can they?

  88. 88
    Fred says:

    It’s NC. It’s “The New South” we’ve been hearing so much about. Been there. Done that.

  89. 89
    karen says:

    I think that part of the problem is that counties and towns are getting their funds cut so they don’t have the money to hire as many cops as they’d normally hire. They also don’t have the money or the time to train them so the cops that are there now are burned out and more likely to turn to quick solutions without thinking whether or not these solutions (taser, guns) are appropriate ways to deal with situations. I’m sure the training that they do have stresses the point of view that everyone else is an enemy and if they’re black or latino, they’re automatic criminals. Not all cops are like this of course but I’m sure that the more affluent areas aren’t as short staffed and don’t act as crazy.

  90. 90
    Tone In DC says:

    Others have mentioned this before.

    If a situation I could resolve arose, I would NOT call the cops. And yes, that would encompass most situations. Reading so many stories like this over the last ten years or so, I can’t picture wanting these guys on the scene if I could avoid it.

  91. 91
    danielx says:


    Not unexpected indeed. The usual PR bullshit issued in cases like this is always (with very, very rare exceptions) that “the officers involved acted in accordance with the law and departmental guidelines and regulations”, etc. You’re never going to hear that “the officer(s) in question clearly violated the law and department guidelines and is even more clearly a psychopathic/sociopathic asshole” – unless there’s video of the incident in question, which is one reason why cops really, truly, absolutely hate being videotaped. Even the chief of those thugs who were responsible for giving that poor bastard in New Mexico a colonoscopy in a search for nonexistent drugs said that his officers “follow the law in every aspect”. One does wonder to which law he is referring, because it sure as shit isn’t what’s left of the Fourth Amendment.

    There are a lot of causes for it, though in smaller departments the problem(s) begin at the top. There’s a joke about hiring practices for a (very) rural county sheriff’s department in my fair state – “screen applicants for those who were abused as children, and hire THOSE guys”. As a practical matter, there are three kinds of people who go into police work: 1, those who want to protect and serve, etc., 2, those who want a stable civil service job with good benefits and pension*, and 3, those who want to carry a gun and push people around**. Which type predominates in an individual department depends on attitudes at the top, and even then other officers will cover for a sociopathic asshole because cops stick together, and if you don’t back up the sociopathic asshole’s story somebody might not back you up when your life depends on it.

    *Even Scott Walker was originally reluctant to fuck with the collective bargaining rights of police and firefighters. Some of his fellow Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature, however, seem to have forgotten the many reasons why you don’t fuck with the perquisites of the Praetorian Guard, more of the more minor ones being that they have a lot of ways to make your life miserable without ever arresting you.

    **Note: type 3 seems to be increasingly predominant no matter what or where the department is.

    ***Short of calling to report a missing child or a felony in progress, I’d be reluctant to call the cops for any reason whatsoever, because you never know what kind of cop is going to respond to the call. As with this poor family, there are all too many cases where cops seem bent on making a bad situation worse rather than cooling things off. That’s without even considering the insanities carried out every day in the WoD, aka the War on Americans.

  92. 92
    Mnemosyne says:


    **Note: type 3 seems to be increasingly predominant no matter what or where the department is.

    I’m guessing there’s a large amount of self selection. Even if you want to protect and serve the public, why would you want your co-workers to be a bunch of sociopathic assholes? Better to become an EMT or firefighter if you can stomach it.

  93. 93
    boatboy_srq says:

    @J R in WV: The point is that a LEO responding to a dispatch in conjunction with EMS is going to behave differently from a LEO dispatched alone without the same. With a medical professional on scene there’s at least some inhibition to random shooting. Not that there would absolutely be no shooting – just that there’s a disincentive to shoot when there’s a medical professional on the scene that isn’t there when there isn’t.

  94. 94
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @negative 1:

    I think that this is a very underrated issue with the law enforcement culture today.

    It’s reflected in the adoption of Pentagon-style jargon — Law Enforcement Officer instead of ‘police’.

    Anecdotally, I’ve seen better crisis response from county deputies in relatively rural areas than small-municipality cops, but I think danielx is right that this is determined from the top down.

  95. 95
    danielx says:


    There are people, who knows how many, that do go into police work for idealistic reasons – again, to protect (the innocent) and serve (the public). However…the emphasis in training is to regard everyone as a criminal who just hasn’t been caught yet or a potential threat, or both. Type #3 personalities eat this attitude up with a spoon, of course. From what I understand this attitude has been the norm in black/brown/poor communities forever, but it’s starting to get more attention because it’s bleeding over into police encounters with white/more affluent communities and persons. Naturally people are all shocked and shit. Radley Balko is a libertarian jerk (yes, yes, redundant, I know) but he has done a lot of informative work in this area.

  96. 96
    Trollhattan says:


    “Makes blood boil” doesn’t begin to to describe my gut response to this callous, evidently legal murder. Officer Zimmerman pulled the tirgger, I presume?

    Ninety-pound kid. Ninety pounds. They only needed Office Christie.

    Brunswick County, Guatemala.

  97. 97
    drkrick says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Police Departments need to put up one of those “safety days” poster in the break room.

    “____ Days Since Mentally Ill Person Killed”

    Don’t forget to remind them you want a high number in there.

  98. 98
    Annamal says:

    This is all making me super grateful to the New Zealand police (who have their own issues which need work but ye gods this is beyond the pale).

    For an example of police action that could have gone horribly wrong if guns were involved:
    Last year my partner and I were in the middle of watching a horror movie (right in the bit where someone was about to get killed by the thing under the bed), we started hearing the odd thumping noise, we’ve gotten used to ignoring those since we live in an old house so we were pretty blase right up until our cat started going nuts.

    My partner grabbed a big stick and wandered out to the hallway to check it out, I followed expecting to find nothing at all or possibly a rival cat sneaking in, instead there was a stranger and my partner trying to persuade him to get out of the house.

    I yelled and called 111 and managed to make some kind of sense to the operator. The stranger turned out to be grumpy, a little incoherent, covered in blood and looking to buy some drugs but utlimately not actually violent.

    He eventually wandered outside and up to the street where 8 or so police officers showed and very carefully and politely got him to strip off his shirt to check for wounds and then persuaded him to hop in the police car.

    A very nice sergeant then walked through the house with us offering advice on removing bloodstains and very subtly trying to find out if we were responsible for the headwound that our intruder was sporting, he got his answer when we found a massive puddle of blood (along with a pair of glasses and a shoe) on the concrete down by our back fence where the guy had fallen while trying to climb over the fence. The sergeant gathered everything up in a plastic bag and left and we never heard anything else about it.

    So yeah, fairly traumatic situation all round but ultimately resolved (the blood wiped off the walls pretty easily) but if any single one of us (me, my partner, the intruder or even the police) had been sporting a gun it could have turned into a fatal confrontation in a heartbeat.

  99. 99
    Trollhattan says:


    Whoa, that’s quite the (mis)adventure. And a “well done” to all involved. As you say, it could have been much, much worse.

  100. 100
    Annamal says:


    Thank you =)

    I was very definitely not acting rationally at the time ( I missed the fact that the guy was covered in blood until my partner pointed it out to me while I was describing him to the operator…I also initally thought he was a lot taller than he actually was).

    I remember being this weird combination of incredibly angry and fearful and I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I’d had access to any weapon more dangerous than a stick.

    The dude probably shouldn’t have been trespassing (and I suspect he was pretty drunk/stoned before that although he probably had an awful concussion to go along with that) but no way should he have died for that.

    Ultimately I’m really impressed by our cat, if she hadn’t got all grumpy we probably would have ignored the noises and wound up with a blood stained stranger passed out on one of our beds.

  101. 101
    Chet says:

    @flukebucket: One of the local radio yakkers actually argued the opposite today: that because the victim was white, his parents were less likely to see justice because they don’t have civil rights leaders to publicize the case like in the Trayvon case.

  102. 102
    Lex says:

    @elmo: Good point. And he ended up doing time for it, too, though not nearly enough.

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